He’s coming Again!

1 Corinthians 15:51-58,.Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Verse 51. The “mystery” that Paul speaks of in this verse is that at the second coming of Christ some Christians will have never died, and others will have died, but that the bodies of both will be changed. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [that is, die], but we shall all be changed.” Those whose bodies have decomposed in the ground will be changed, and those who have healthy living bodies will be changed.

Then he tells us how this will be. Verse 52. The first thing he says is that it will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” There will be no process or development. Our change will be instantaneous, whether we are dead or alive

Then he focuses on two things that will be changed about our bodies: their perishable condition and their mortal condition. Verses 53, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Perishable means that our bodies decay, wear out, run down. Mortal means that our bodies die. There is very great difference. You can die in the prime of your youth when the body is only increasing in strength and vigor.

Then he focuses on two things that will be changed about our bodies: their perishable condition and their mortal condition. Verses 53, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Perishable means that our bodies decay, wear out, run down. Mortal means that our bodies die. There is very great difference. You can die in the prime of your youth when the body is only increasing in strength and vigor.

Then Paul says in verses 54-55 that when this happens, when in the twinkling of an eye our bodies become imperishable and immortal, then the sayings from Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 will come to pass. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

There are two images here: swallowing and getting stung, perhaps by a scorpion (see Revelation 9:10). Paul says that at the second coming our death will be swallowed up in victory. And there will be no destructive sting in it. The swallowing image is helpful. It means that, even though death is a kind of defeat for us. It is an enemy Paul says: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

And this enemy gets an apparent victory. Just the way that death got an apparent victory over Jesus. But then Jesus rose from the dead, and what seemed like a defeat—and was a kind of defeat—proved to be the greatest victory of all. His death was swallowed up in victory. Indeed his death became part of the victory over death.

The other image—the sting—implies that there is a sharp, painful thrust against our soul when we die. And Paul says that it will be gone. It will not poison and it will not destroy. There will be no death in death.

I say it paradoxically like that because it seems that’s what the absence of the lethal poison in a scorpion means. It stings you and tries to kill you and it can’t. I also say it this paradoxical way because Jesus spoke this way in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

There is no death in death for those who believe in Christ. The sting is gone.

Copyright 2010 © Regina A. McKinney

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